Transparency in government important

With government taking an ever-increasing part in the life of every person in this nation, it is vital that citizens demand

that those who are governing us submit to the maximum transparency.

Fortunately for us, Louisiana appears to be one of the states taking government transparency seriously.

Louisiana recently received a B+

when it comes to government spending transparency, according to

“Following the Money 2014:

How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government

Spending Data,” the fifth annual report of its kind by the

U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.While a B+ is

above average, it is not nearly good enough. The residents of Louisiana

should settle for nothing less than

an A+.

“State governments across the

country have become more transparent about where public money goes,

providing citizens with

the information they need to hold elected officials and recipients

of public subsidies accountable,” said Phineas Baxandall,

senior analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group

Education Fund. “We’re hoping that Louisiana will be a leader

next year.”

Officials from Louisiana and 44

other states provided the researchers with feedback on their initial

evaluation of state transparency

websites. The leading states with the most comprehensive

transparency websites are Indiana, Florida, Oregon, Florida, Texas,

Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Based on an inventory of the

content and ease-of-use of states’ transparency websites, the “Following

the Money 2014” report

assigns each state a grade of “A” to “F.” Described in the report

as an “Advancing state,” Louisiana’s checkbook is searchable

by recipient, keyword and agency. However, the state provides less

access to information about spending on subsidies or whether

subsidy recipients deliver on the agreed-upon public benefits.

After receiving a C in last year’s

report, Louisiana showed significant improvement this year with a score

of 88. Of the 50

states, Louisiana’s was the 10th most-improved score. Grading

standards rise each year, so states need to improve transparency

each year to be a leader.

While many states continue to

improve, the states that most distinguished themselves as leaders in

spending transparency are

those that provide access to types of expenditures that otherwise

receive little public scrutiny. For instance, six states

provide public access to checkbook-level data on the subsidy

recipients for each of the state’s most important economic development

programs, allowing residents and public officials to hold subsidy

recipients accountable by listing the public benefits that

specific companies were expected to provide and showing the

benefits they actually delivered. The most transparent states

similarly provide detailed information on subsidies spent through

the tax code and “off-budget” quasi-public agencies.

“Rising public expectations about

government transparency are clearly making progress,” said Greg LeRoy,

executive director

of Good Jobs First, an organization that tracks state and local

subsidies. “US PIRG’s findings about overall state spending

transparency are consistent with our own specific findings about

economic development subsidies: there is more data and its

quality is improving. Now our collective challenge is to use the

data to win more accountability and equity.”

“Open information about the public

purse is crucial for democratic and effective government,” Baxandall

said. “It is not possible

to ensure that government spending decisions are fair and

efficient unless information is publicly accessible.”

State spending transparency is a

non-partisan issue. The report compared transparency scores with a

variety of measures of

which party rules the state legislative, or sits in the governor’s

office, or how public opinion tilts in the states. Neither

Republican nor Democratic states tend to have higher levels of

spending disclosure.

The state’s transparency website — wwwprd.doa.louisiana.gov/latrac — is operated by Louisiana Division of Administration.

The U.S. Public Interest Research

Group Education Fund report can be found at

http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/following-money-2014.

It is the duty of every Louisiana resident to keep our government and our politician’s honest and transparent. Be alert and

active at the ballot box and keep track of what’s going on in between elections.